Unfinished

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | October 12, 2017 | 6 Comments

Four years ago in September, I sat at the kitchen table in the rectory reading the newspaper. I was a parish pastor and had been serving parishes and schools for over 23 years. I saw the headlines and was disturbed. There was yet another story on clergy sexual abuse. I felt angry at Church leaders and fighting attorneys. I felt frustrated that this issue had been going on since before I was ordained. I felt sadness and compassion for victims and their families.

I was clueless that in less than a week, I would be named vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese.

When I walked into my new office in the chancery, I entered a world flooded by a tsunami of media attention. The statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims had been lifted, and all of the dioceses in Minnesota were affected by scores of people coming forward with some of the most heartbreaking stories.

After four years, I am sympathetic with all those who want this all to go away. Yet I know that it never will go away and should not go away. The bankruptcy case, now in its third year, is only a step toward restitution and only one part of the work necessary for reconciliation and healing. Eventually, the archdiocese will emerge from bankruptcy, but we cannot just dust off our hands in that familiar gesture of finishing a project. When civil justice has run its linear process, then the virtue of justice must continue to direct our path.

The iconic symbol of civil justice has a blindfold and a set of scales. The virtue of justice is served when the blindfold is removed, and the scales are tipped to favor those without power. This is why we cannot be done when our Chapter 11 bankruptcy case is completed. To be a people of reconciliation and healing, we must see and listen to those who have been so traumatically harmed, through no fault of their own. We must work on their behalf not only to complete civil restitution, but also to do all we can to restore trust and, wherever possible, restore faith.

Awareness is a painful process, and this has been a painful time. Yet our pain pales in comparison to the suffering of people who have had to live their lives as victims of clergy sexual abuse. This trauma also extends to their families and friends. For all of us who have listened to victims and survivors, reviewed documents and transcripts, and read police and court reports, the stories disturb our consciences and grieve our hearts. No dollar amount can erase what has happened, and there is no excuse. For all, the pain is real and the wounds are some of the most serious in the body of Christ in our time.

I cannot say that victims and survivors should be patient until we have completed the bankruptcy proceedings. That would be wrong. I write this because I do not want the survivor community to lose hope. We will continue to cooperate with the bankruptcy court with a humility that comes from humiliation. We will continue, at great financial cost, to be the debtor who pays for everything — including attorneys on all sides. We depend on the judge to keep things fair and to point our way to our last chapter in his courtroom. From there, the archdiocese will proceed to put our heart where our money has been. With great compassion, we will continue to be led by the survivor community to steps of reconciliation, restoration and healing.

When I used to meet with survivors before there was a wall of attorneys, it was a common request that no child will ever have to go through what they have gone through. Our policies and procedures for safe environments are not just compliance requirements — they are our commitment to our children, and to victims and survivors who want children to be safe. Every parishioner, every member of parish and school staffs, and everyone in archdiocesan and community leadership are the open eyes, open ears and ready voices for the well-being of our children and youth.

To the silent sufferers, we offer an open door to reconciliation and healing. We assure you of our sorrow and daily prayers. As long as there is one person still bearing wounds of clergy sexual abuse, we must keep the candle lighted. As disciples of Jesus Christ, this truth is proclaimed in the opening prologue of the Gospel of John: “and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it.”

We do believe and profess as people of faith that the light of Jesus Christ is the greater light over all powers of darkness, including death itself. Just as the community of survivors has found in its own healing a light greater than the darkness, so too must we be bearers of the light.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, may we be true to our Church and never end our responsibility to bring the light of Christ to every
darkness — and not just pray that it all goes away.

Inconcluso

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Category: Only Jesus